Read an Excerpt
Three hundred and fifty-nine days.
That's how long I've been waiting for this.
That's how many days I've counted down.
It's been three hundred and fifty-nine days since I last saw him.
Gucci paws at my leg as I lean against my suitcase, fizzing with nervous excitement as I stare out the living room window. It's almost 6:00 a.m., and outside the sun has just risen. I watched it filter through the darkness twenty minutes ago, admiring how beautiful the avenue looked and the way the sunlight bounced off the cars lining the sidewalk. Dean should be pulling up any second.
I drop my eyes to the huge German shepherd by my feet. Leaning down, I rub behind her ears until she turns and pads her way into the kitchen. All I can do is gaze out the window again, mentally running through a list of everything I packed, but it only stresses me out and I end up sliding off my suitcase and zipping it open instead. I rummage through the pile of shorts, the pairs of Converse, the collection of bracelets.
"Eden, trust me, you've got everything you need."
My hands stop shifting through my clothes and I look up. Mom's standing in the kitchen in her robe, staring over the counter at me with her arms folded across her chest. She has the same expression she's been wearing for a week straight now. Half upset, half annoyed.
I sigh and shove everything into the suitcase again as I close it back up and set it on its wheels. I get to my feet. "I'm just nervous."
I don't quite know how to describe the way I'm feeling. There are nerves, of course, because I have no idea what to expect. Three hundred and fifty-nine days is a long time for things to change. Everything could be different. So I am also terrified. I'm terrified that things won't be different. I'm scared that the second I see him, everything will come rushing back. That's the thing about distance: it either gives you time to move on from someone, or it makes you realize just how much you need them.
And right now, I have no idea if I simply miss my stepbrother or if I miss the person I was in love with. It's hard to tell the difference. They're the same person.
"Don't be," Mom says. "There's nothing to be nervous about." She walks over into the living room, Gucci bouncing behind her, and she squints out the window before sitting down on the arm of the couch. "When's Dean coming?"
"Now," I say quietly.
"Well, I hope you get stuck in traffic and that you miss your flight."
I grit my teeth and turn to the side. Mom's been against this whole idea since the moment I mentioned it to her. She doesn't want to waste a single day, and apparently leaving for six weeks is exactly that: wasted time. It's our last few months together before I move to Chicago in the fall. For her, this translates into the last time she'll see me. Ever. Which is totally not true. Once finals wrap up, I'll be home again next summer.
"Are you really that pessimistic?"
Mom finally cracks a smile. "Not pessimistic, just jealous and a little selfish."
Right then I hear the sound of a car engine. I know it's Dean before I even look, and the soft purr fades into silence as the car pulls up on the driveway. Jack, my mom's boyfriend, has parked his truck farther up, so I crane my neck to get a better view.
Dean's pushing open the door of his car and stepping out, but his movements are slow and his face is blank, like he doesn't want to be here. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Last night his replies were blunt and he spent the evening mostly looking at his phone, and when I left his house, he didn't walk me out to my car like he normally does. Just like Mom, he's a little pissed off with me.
A lump grows in my throat, and I try to swallow it down as I pull out the handle of my suitcase. I wheel it toward the front door but then pause to fix Mom with an anxious frown. It's finally time to leave for the airport.
Dean doesn't knock before he enters the house. He never does; he doesn't have to. But the door swings open slower than usual before he steps into the house, looking tired. "Morning."
"Morning, Dean," Mom says. Her small smile becomes a much wider grin as she reaches out to gently squeeze his arm. "She's ready to go."
Dean's dark eyes flash over to meet mine. Normally he smiles when he sees me, but this morning his expression is neutral. He does, however, raise his eyebrows at me, as though to ask, "Well, are you?"
"Hey," I say, and I'm so nervous that it comes out sounding weak and pathetic. I glance down at my suitcase and then back up to Dean. "Thanks for doing this on your day off."
"Don't remind me," he says, but he's starting to smile, and it puts me at ease. Stepping forward, he takes my suitcase from me. "I could be in bed right now, sleeping until noon."
"You're too good to me." I move closer to him and wrap my arms around his body, burying my face into his shirt while he laughs and squeezes me back. I tilt my face up to look at him from beneath my eyelashes. "Seriously."
"Aw," Mom coos from beside us, and it makes me realize that she's still in the room. "You two are so cute."
I shoot her a warning glance before looking back to Dean. "And that is our cue to leave."
"No, no, listen to me first." Mom stands, and her brief smile quickly disappears, a disapproving frown taking its place. I fear that when I come home this frown of hers will have become permanent. "Don't go on the subway. Don't speak to strangers. Don't step foot in the Bronx. Also, please come home alive."
My eyes roll to the back of my head. I received a similar lecture exactly two years ago when I was leaving for California to reconnect with Dad, only then the warnings were mostly about him. "I know," I say. "Basically, just don't do anything stupid."
She looks at me hard. "Exactly."
I let go of Dean's arm and step toward her, wrapping my arms around her. Hugging her will shut her up. It always does. She squeezes me tightly and sighs against my neck. "I'll miss you," I murmur, but it's muffled.
"And you sure as hell know I'm going to miss you too," she says as she pulls away from me, her hands still on my shoulders. She glances at the clock on the kitchen wall before gently pushing me back toward Dean. "You better get going. You don't want to miss your flight."
"Yeah, we better head off," Dean says. He swings open the front door and rolls my suitcase over the threshold, pausing. Perhaps it's to see if my mom has any more unnecessary words of advice for me before I leave. Thankfully, she doesn't.
I grab my backpack from the couch and follow Dean outside, but not without turning back around to offer Mom one final wave. "I guess I'll see you in six weeks."
"Stop reminding me," she says, and with that, she promptly slams the front door. I roll my eyes and make my way across the lawn. She'll come around. Eventually.
"Well," Dean calls over his shoulder as I follow him to his car, "at least I'm not the only one who's being left behind."
I squeeze my eyes shut and run a hand through my hair, lingering by the passenger door as he throws my suitcase into the trunk. "Dean, please don't start."
"But it's not fair," he mutters. We slide into the vehicle at the exact same time, and the moment he gets his door shut, he lets out a groan. "Why the hell do you have to leave?"
"It's really not that big of a deal," I say, because I really don't see what the problem is. Both he and Mom have disapproved of New York since the second I mentioned it to them. It's as though they think I'll never come home again. "It's just a trip."
"A trip?" Dean scoffs. Despite his foul mood, he manages to start up the engine and get me on my way, backing out onto the street and heading southbound. "You're leaving for six weeks. You come home for a month and then you move to Chicago. All I'm getting is five weeks with you. It's not enough."
"Yeah, but we'll make the best of those five weeks." I know that anything I say won't help the situation in the slightest, because this moment has been building up for several months now, and finally Dean is putting everything out in the open. I've been waiting for this to happen for a while.
"That's not the point, Eden," he snaps, and it momentarily silences me. Although I was expecting this, it's still odd seeing Dean aggravated. We rarely argue, because we've never disagreed on anything until now.
"Then what is?"
"The fact that you chose to spend six weeks over there instead of being with me," he says, but his voice has suddenly grown a lot quieter. "Is New York really that great? Who the hell needs six weeks in New York? Why not just one?"
"Because he invited me out for six," I admit. Maybe six weeks is a long time, but back when I agreed to it, it seemed like the best idea in the world.
"Why couldn't you compromise?" He's getting more riled up each second, and he moves his hands in sync with his words, which results in some rough steering. "Why couldn't you just say, ‘Hey, sure, I'll come, but only for two weeks,' huh?"
I fold my arms across my chest and turn away from him, glaring out the window. "Okay, chill out. Rachael hasn't complained once about me leaving. Why can't you be the same?"
"Okay, Rachael's your best friend, but I'm your boyfriend. And maybe also because she gets to meet up with you while you're there," he fires back, which, admittedly, is true. Rachael and our friend Meghan, who I've barely seen since she left for Utah State University, have had a trip to New York planned for months now. I'd have been invited along too, but Tyler beat them to it. Either way, I would have inevitably ended up in the city this summer, but I guess I can't blame Dean for feeling left out while me, Rachael, Meghan, and Tyler-nearly our whole group of friends-have a reunion in New York without him.
Dean sighs and remains quiet for a minute, neither of us saying anything until we come to a stop sign. "You're making me start this whole long-distance-relationship thing early," he says. "It sucks."
"Fine, turn the car around," I snap. I spin back around to look at him, throwing my hands up. "I won't go. Will that make you happy?"
"No," he says. "I'm taking you to the airport."
Silence ensues for the next half hour. There's just nothing more to talk about. Dean is pissed off, and I'm not sure what I can say to cheer him up, so we end up stuck in this strained quietness all the way to Terminal 7.
Dean cuts the engine the second he pulls up against the curb by the entrance to the departures level, and then he turns to look at me intently. It's almost 7:00 a.m. by now. "Can you at least call me, like, all the time?"
"Dean, you know I will." I let out a breath and give a small smile, hoping that he'll succumb to my widening eyes. "Just try not to think about me too much."
"You say that like it's easy," he says. Another sigh. But when he glances back at me, I think he might be lightening up. "Come here."
He reaches over to cup my face in his hands, gently drawing me over the center console until his lips find mine, and soon it's as though our argument didn't even happen. He kisses me slowly until eventually I have to pull away.
"Are you trying to make me miss my flight?" I arch an eyebrow at him as I push open the car door, swinging my legs out.
Dean smirks. "Maybe."
I roll my eyes and step out, throwing my backpack over one shoulder and gently shutting the door behind me. I grab my suitcase from the trunk before heading around to his window, which he rolls down for me the second I near him.
"Yes, New York City gal?"
I reach into my pocket and pull out our five-dollar bill, the exact same one we've been tossing back and forth to each other ever since we met, like whenever we do each other a favor. The bill is now unbelievably torn and tattered, and I'm surprised it hasn't disintegrated yet. "Five bucks for the ride."
Dean presses his lips together as he takes the bill from me, but it does little to hide the fact that he's smiling. "You owe me a lot more than five bucks for this."
"I know. I'm sorry." Leaning down through his window, I plant a sharp kiss on the corner of his lips and then finally turn to make my way inside the terminal. Behind me, I hear the sound of his engine starting up once more.
I haven't been to LAX in almost two years, so part of me wishes that Dean had come inside with me, but I decide that it's better I didn't drag all of this out longer than need be. He would have hated watching me disappear beyond check-in. Besides, I can manage on my own. I think.
As I predicted, the terminal is incredibly busy when I get inside, even at this time. I weave my way through the flow of people until I find a clear spot to stop for a moment. Swinging my backpack off my shoulder, I rummage around inside and pull out my phone. I draw up my text messages, grab hold of my suitcase, and as I make my way toward check-in, I begin to type.
Looks like next summer is here. See you soon.
And then I send it to the person I've been waiting three hundred and fifty-nine days to see.
I send it to Tyler.